Tag Archives: Supply Chain

On Prevarication, JIT, and Acorns & Oaks

22 May

oak and acorn

So, it’s true – the acorn doesn’t fall far from the oak. I just read this article on early risers vs late night owls, roughly 10 mins after my daughter finally got up this morning/ afternoon – at 12.10 (that’s p.m.)! And, despite my frustration at the time she was getting up, was forced to face my own habits – I have done various all-nighters throughout my life, but ask me to wake up at even 7 a.m…..and I’m like someone asked me to run a marathon! So, not surprised lo sleeps at 4 and wakes up at 12.

I also see this same genetic influence in her regarding another bad habit – that of “putting off things till tomorrow that should ideally be done today”. In other words, prevarication! The fact that I didn’t write a blog for well over 3 months, was basically prevarication – so is this now-almost-extinct book project I launched upon a year ago! This unfortunately is a lifelong habit.

When I think about it, prevarication is a fantastic way of letting nature prioritize tasks for you – basically, you keep putting things off till they either assume monumental do-or-die proportions, thus forcing you to put your head down and work to finish that task; or they just fade away – which basically means that they weren’t all that important to begin with. Read this article to see how procrastinating does help you become more focussed and productive!

But the other aspect of it is that I work best under a deadline – the buzz that a concentrated effort with a looming deadline brings, is unparalleled – I know advertising agencies work best that way – maybe desperation brings out the creative juices in a way that having a lot of time doesn’t. Or maybe, it’s just that some folks are wired a certian way, and they only work best under pressure.

All my life – whether it was exams , where I wouldn’t study throughout the year, but basically not sleep the entire week/ fortnight of exams; or, whether it was a client deadline on work that would get done JUST-in-time…I’ve practiced this last minute way of work. Not easy on parents/ teachers/ fellow workers – but, hey, it works!

The Japs made JIT such a big management phenomenon, and supply chains all over the world, for example at Wal-Mart, specialised in optimal inventories and thus enormous cost reductions, due to JIT!


The best slant on what I would ruthlessly call the big P word, but HBR calls the theory of optimum delay is this link. It talks about how it’s almost always better to wait a bit – whether it is Jimmy Connors’ tennis shot, or a decision made after some delay (infact, in true HBR style, it even has a shorthand for it – OODA – observe, orient, decide, act)

The interesting point that emerges therefore I guess is about the value of time. We always heard Time is Money, and the hare vs. tortoise story about wasting time resulting in a certain win being converted into an ignominious loss! But the author argues here, that the time spent “observing, orienting and deciding; actually ends up being useful time in the end.

Coming back to procrastination however, the kind I am talking about is the one where you are not necessarily achieving much out of the delay – but instead spending time on arbit rubbish, convincing yourself you are WORKing – it’s like when my daughter sits in front of her comp at her desk, with her books open; but then watches Bethany Mota or Superwoman or Into the Woods – in her mind, she is working! Or, when I continuously scroll between facebook, whatsap and email – convincing myself I am reading/ enlarging my mind —- all of this is chronic procrastination!

So, the question is: Is procrastination good or bad, (or, if bad, how do you avoid it)

I really like this article where procrastination is related to willpower, or the limited amount of it. “If you’re thinking about procrastinating, it’s already too late” it says. Sounds familiar? 🙂

IMO, habitual procrastinators are just so – they can at best become a bit better – I think what is important is whether they get results despite procrastinating, i.e. whether their procrastination achieves success, or ends up in failure. I suspect this in turn relates to — how much horse power the procrastinator has — as an example, I repeatedly did things last minute, because I saw time after time, that I COULD do things last minute – whether it was cramming for the year’s portions the day before the exam, or a client deadline to be sent off.

It also relates to, WHAT kind of work is being delayed – as I said before, some work actually is better for the delay. Read this article on how prevarication is better for productivity

Things To Do List

Most experts give advice on how to battle procrastination. Most procrastinators are experts at listening to, then ignoring this advice. I did like some of the stuff in this article which talks about whisker goals as opposed to stretch goals, and how to not let a task list overwhelm you; and this nice logout tip for productivity.

For folks who are annoyingly on time all the time, obviously sometimes it is better if procrastinators around them learn how to manage this addiction! Here is some more reading on this topic (clearly written by someone who is NOT a procrastinator, and thus has NO idea what he is talking about!)

tech adoption lifecycle

We all know the adoption life cycle – in many cases, early adopters, while being the first to get to experiment with new stuff and getting the pleasure of it; also the associated status; as well as creating a new market, also sometimes become guinea piggish – so, in case the new tech doesnt do well, they suffer reversals. On the other hand, procrastinators (only, the tech life cycle doesn’t use the P word – it calls them the “mature” consumers), get to enjoy the combined experience of all the early adopters – and benefit from iterations in technology, also very often cheaper prices as, due to scale, prices of the new tech stuff drops.

Even in the newer versions of the hare and tortoise stories, the procrastinator hare becomes smarter, and not only runs faster and steadier, but also changes the rules of the game to enjoy better/ more suited to him – wins.

So, ofcourse, being a die hard procrastinator, I will look for the pluses – but I have to confess, when I wear my mom hat, I’m not so happy seeing this in my lo!

Having said that, facebook fed me another early vs late night article which was reasonably complimentary to “night owl chronotypes”), so, maybe, procrastinator oak notwithstanding, my acorn has some hope in life yet!


Social Media for Supply Chain – Laggard? Deserves to Be?

3 Jan

Its a fact that for service companies, most innovation is triggered and developed due to client demands. This was really true when I first tried to find out applications of Social Media Listening and Analytics in the Supply Chain area.

Despite having evolved and demonstrated many applications for this new medium in Healthcare and Pharma, in CPG and even in Financial services, i wasn’t expecting any applications in Supply Chain – after all, this is a fairly evolved science now – thanks to the likes of Wal-Mart and P&G/ Nike, with many enterprise platforms enabling flow of data to enable real time knowledge, and thus optimization drives. Also, as most folks believe, Social Media is largely a B2C concept (infact, in most peoples’ minds, it is really only facebook and twitter!)

Not true, and far otherwise!

The first use that professionals in supply chain functions can derive from Social Media, is no different from that other folks can – this is the benefit of “listening” – to keep abreast of trends, to catch any “early warning signals”, to track potentially viral news that could affect their/ their competitors’/ their suppliers’ fortunes. After all, in the much documented Washington earthquake case from (i think it was) 2010, news of the earthquake reached other centers far before it had been expected – due to twitter!

An allied use is that of fuelling innovation, or even problem solving. Case studies of how companies are using crowd sourcing to build a pipeline of R&D ideas abound. Rather than abstract ideas with unrelated people, crowd sourcing can be directed at a fairly focused/ targeted set of people via communities, and thus ideas generated or solutions received are more relevant. Solution Xchange is one such problemsolving/ brainstorming portal.

Having said that, the cases above are more traditional/ and generic. But, the true power of social media lies in the collaboration that these social technologies enable. And that actually lies at the heart of the best use case of Social for Supply chain. Think about this – real time platforms on Lithium or Jive, connecting instantaneously vast armies of suppliers and buyers, and also customers and all the intermediaries – to enable knowledge sharing and collaboration within these communities. The naysayers would say – but we already have our EDIs – we don’t need other/ multiple platforms. The point is, EDI shares DATA. What it doesn’t share is OPINION or JUDGEMENT. And, true information is made out of data + judgement. In addition, in today’s world, competitive differentiation is very often achieved by the SPEED with which u are holders of information. This is what social technologies enable – that split second expert judgement (backed by data of course) that says – shipment will be delayed! Cisco has done this well – they built an internal/ quasi external portal connecting thousands of their stakeholders, enabling quicker and much more cost optimised supply chains.

A better word for the above could be better SRM – supplier relationship management. You can build so much social intelligence around suppliers — infact, taken to extremes, this could spawn bidding/ sharing platforms similar to e commerce ones in the B2C world!

The final, and most interesting use case (to me) is in logistics – how 3PL firms are using social networks for better knowledge and information management. Con-way is probably the best example. They launched, back in 2011, their twitter platform – Tweetload. This published every 15 minutes the available loads, and carriers can bid on the loads to optimise consignment. Clever, isnt it?

So, the issue is not about how useful Social Media is/ can be for the Supply Chain function, it is : a) how do we choose the parts that are useful and b) can we create that ONE platform that is customised to the needs of the SC professionals – just as facebook was to the university student.

If someone can show me the vision for it, i may even help fund it 🙂